My mom is 88 years old and very active. She lives in a single-family home within a neighborhood of mostly seniors. The community is not gated, meaning anyone can drive through without attracting much — if any — attention.

The community is active, with many activities at the clubhouse, including bunko, bingo and Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, which accounts for most of the arguments and good gossip.

The residents frequently walk their small dogs along the sidewalk during the day and evening. It’s a very social and interactive process. They walk the dog, stop, speak with others walking their dogs, go to the next house and repeat the process, and at times, the story. Sometimes it feels like it takes two weeks to make it around the block.

It may not seem obvious, but this dynamic activity level is significant for a community composed mostly of residents aged 55-plus.

An experienced burglar will take note of residents walking along the sidewalk, with or without their pooches, because he knows they are eyes and ears for the community.

Man with binoculars
Photo by Andrea Som from Pixabay

The biggest deterrent to neighborhood burglary is what I call the “Gladys Kravitz” factor. Gladys Kravitz was the nosy neighbor on the television show “Bewitched.” She was always in everyone’s business, snooping around the neighborhood looking for gossip and, of course, conspiracies.

To cops, however, Gladys was a valuable resource because she noticed everything around her. And residents, especially those who frequently walk the neighborhood, are extremely effective in deterring a crime such as theft or burglary.

To be effective, two things need to happen. You need to: 1, know what to look for, what habits burglars fall into when casing a neighborhood; and 2, be assertive enough that when you see something that looks suspicious, you call 911.

What to look for includes: slow-moving cars cruising the neighborhood with occupants looking around; strange cars riding through an area more than once; cars pulled alongside the curb for a while with occupants sitting inside. Maybe they’re sitting in front of a home whose residents are on vacation or otherwise gone.

What about someone walking between houses, or someone you don’t recognize, walking from house to house, maybe wearing a backpack? All these examples can be legitimate, but they can also signal that something is suspicious. If you walk the neighborhood, carry a pen and paper, or log a tag number into your phone.

When cars pass, look at the drivers, smile and wave. An experienced burglar will recognize when he’s noticed while casing a community. Even though you’re smiling and waving, he knows you took note of him. That can be a powerful deterrent.

Even if a suspicious situation turns out to be nothing, it’s okay. Most suspicious-activity police calls are unfounded, but the one that pays off is worth it. Never second-guess your first intuition.

Every 55-plus community should have a good working relationship with the police department’s community crime prevention officer. Invite them to your social events and learn the little things that make a big difference in deterring a crime.

Start a Neighborhood Watch and learn about community-oriented policing. Most of all, be an “Gladys Kravitz.”

Steve Rose is a retired police captain and a contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.